How Wrong Is This?
Tell me something.
Is it terribly wrong to fall for a guy who runs in your ex’s circle… less than a month after you broke up with said ex?
‘Cause from this side of an abusive relationship, I’m not really sure.
Back when my ex and I were still together, he introduced me to a friend of his, Liam. It was during a dull between-classes gap that I came upon my ex and his other friend, attempting to teach Liam how to play Yugioh.
Liam looked like he was trying to learn, and very politely too, but the principal look on his face was a combination of “What the hell is going on?” and “Why do people do this?”
It is a look I know very well, because I wore it every time my ex broke out one of his dreaded card decks, or engulfed me an hour-long rant about pendulum summoning.
Liam and I shared a few laughs about this and we discovered some commonalities. We were both homeschooled. We are older than most of the students on campus. We are both incredibly forgetful. We do not much care for Yugioh.
Now, I have to be honest here. I really liked Liam. Like immediately. We talked easily, he was witty, sweet, and slightly soft spoken. It didn’t help matters that he was tall, and lean, and stupid handsome too. But tellingly, I didn’t realize how I was feeling in the moment. What clued me in was actually my ex, who during this conversation placed his hands uncharacteristically on my shoulders and whispered in my ear. I don’t remember what he said, something sweet, but clearly he was marking his property like a cat would upon a couch.
My relationship crumbled over the next couple months. I began feeling like the rope in a particularly violent game of tug of war, fought between the wonderful geek I fell in love with, and the condescending asshole he became. During this time, I tried not to keep my eyes peeled on campus for Liam. We passed occasionally and my heart would leap a little but rarely did I actually have the moxie to speak to him. I’d wave politely and smile and keep right on going, feeling guilty. I was not a free woman. I was not supposed to be getting flustered over guys who closely resembled Prince Charming, if Prince Charming were a previously homeschooled nursing student.
Currently, my ex and I are “friends”. It is a weird sort of “friends”, in which we talk every day but he reminds me at semi regular intervals that he would like something more. When it was established that either of us are now free to date whomever we please, he explained that he would have to ‘disengage’ if I found someone that made him feel jealous.
It was something I deliberated intensely. A few weeks ago, when he was (temporarily) passionate about being platonic, I met a sweet guy, a combination rapper and classical pianist. But once my ex caught wind that I had spoken three words to the guy, he just seemed crushed.
I have no desire to hurt my ex at all. He is a supremely wonderful guy when circumstances allow. It just also happens that he is supremely demeaning, and thanks to his adoring mother, narcissistic on a grand scale. So I explained to him that, yeah, I was interested in Mr. Rapper/Pianist but the attraction faded quickly. (The guy was a player, and a 'bottle copper', whatever the hell that means.) But I felt so guilty for some reason. I felt like talking to this guy made me unfaithful to my ex. (Which is an oxymoron if I ever saw one.) I felt like I needed to reassure him that I still cared for him, that neither of us were in danger of losing the other. And there seemed to be no way to escape this guilt.
However, something happened today. Something wonderful, and awkward, and confusing.
I talked to Liam.
I work at the information desk at my college, which means I have a front and center view of everyone who walks through the doors in the evenings. Liam strolled in, looked me directly in the eye, and greeted me by name. He stayed and chatted for approximately ten happy minutes, during which my mind hopped like a cricket from thoughts such as, “Holy crap! He’s talking to me!” to “Will my ex be upset that I’m getting flirty with his friends?” to “God damn he looks good in that sweater...”
In the course of this conversation, I also found myself facing my first rejection.
The school’s rock ensemble is putting on a show this week, and being that I am studying music this semester, I will be attending the concert. I asked Liam if he wanted to join me.
It seems he has a class in the evenings.
I don’t know if I should take this with a grain of salt, being that he didn’t say “No, I don’t want to go with you”. But he also didn’t ask for my number, or for a rain check, which is kind of customary if the askee is actually interested in the asker.
If my ex and I were truly friends I would just ask him if he could pull some strings for me. But this guy once kissed me as though his life depended upon reaching my throat with his tongue. I just don’t think it is appropriate to say “Hey! Your tall friend? The one I flirted with while we were still together? Could you give me his number?”
I am just a shit, aren’t I?
To be perfectly frank, I am slightly proud of myself for even having a conversation with Liam to begin with. I felt legitimate guilt for being attracted to him, which is a testament to how strongly my ex’s manipulations still hold me. There is no reason to reject how I feel (even if I was in turn rejected… burn.). Like every other woman who has endured emotional abuse, I am capable of moving forward and accepting my feelings for what they are. I deserve to find someone who will treat me like an equal, rather than like a mental punching bag.
I suppose the only real course of action here is to wait and see what happens. The semester is about to end, and it is likely that I will not see this alluring nursing student until next fall. But I find a real strength in knowing that I am capable of making connections that aren’t my ex, in knowing that there are people out there who won’t put me down, people who will see me for what I am rather than what they want me to be.
We are making progress.